Welcome back! In this week's episode, Echo found herself in an engagement gone wrong that she wasn't prepared (i.e. imprinted) to deal with. Also, through flashbacks, we also learned more about the mysterious past of the Dollhouse and its staff.
More on that in a bit. First I'd like to address a few things I failed to mention in my first blog about the show. It's really just an assortment of ideas compiled while watching "Ghost", the pilot, again.
* The episode both began and ended with Caroline, seemingly Echo's true personality, on video. We opened on a security camera's view of Adelle's office and closed on a video yearbook. Now, if you'll permit me to put on my subtext hat, I'd say this is certainly evocative of the pilot's opening line, "Nothing is what it seems." Joss chooses not to show us Caroline in all her HD glory, but instead removes us slightly by placing her on tape.
* During Caroline's video yearbook message, she all but confirms who the "she" is that is referred to in the opening scene with Adelle. In that scene, Caroline explains she was just trying to, "take her place in the world... like she always said." In the video yearbook, Caroline goes on to thank Miss Dundee for teaching her to do that very thing. Now the question begs, is Caroline thinking out loud in that opening scene or does Caroline mention her because Adelle has crossed paths with Miss Dundee as well?
* Alpha, who last week I referred to as Naked DVD Watching Man, was sitting amidst the dead bodies of a man and a woman while watching Caroline's video yearbook. Could these corpses be that of Caroline's parents?
* I'm sorry; the theme song is really starting to grow on me. The first time I heard it, I was left feeling cold and melancholy. Oh, you agree but don't see anything growing on you? Wait, what's that? That's how Joss wants you to feel? Oh, he's one of those crazies who believe the opening theme sets the tone for the show? Oh, okay, job well done then, I guess.
Thanks for allowing me to step back and revise/update some thoughts. You may also have seen Dollhouse popping up in entertainment news a lot this past week. After a rather lackluster premiere, Apple revealed the show was its number 1 downloaded television program from iTunes. While it's certainly something to be proud of, it's not enough to rely on.
Judging from the posts on our boards, most seemed to enjoy the first episode enough to return for at least one more engagement with Echo. That's good enough for me. All we need is to give the show a bit of room to grow and change.
And change it did. This week's episode featured wall-to-wall action and revelations.
Through a series of flashbacks beginning with the escape of Alpha, the audience was taken on a trip through the previous three months at the Dollhouse. As the pilot began with the line, "Nothing is what it seems," I'm going to play devil's advocate while describing these flashbacks and not necessarily advocate that everything we're being told is what actually happened. Sure, we're told that it's Alpha who left Dr. Saunders looking like a jigsaw puzzle but how do we know for sure? I'm not trying to send myself, or you, down any blind alleys. I'm simply suggesting that we're being shown what Joss wants us to see. Whoever did the killing is obviously someone with a brutal skill. Precision cuts made in exactly the right areas have killed Dolls and staff throughout the compound. But one has to ask, why did Alpha kill everyone in the shower except Echo? Did he not have the quarter of a second it would take to kill her? I doubt that.
As Alpha took out Echo's previous handler Samuelson, the rest of the flashbacks consisted of Boyd's recruitment and first days at the Dollhouse. We're taken on a journey with him. He's extremely reluctant to form any sort of connection with Echo. Unfortunately that's not really how this gig works.
What was also nice about these flashbacks is that they gave us some context for what happened between Caroline "volunteering" and where we are now. When Boyd first came to the Dollhouse, Echo was already one of their most requested actives.
We're also given a more intimate look at the various procedures the Dollhouse uses to create their actives. Code phrases seem to be the life blood of many of these procedures. Much like Nip/Tuck's "Tell me what you don't like about yourself," I would expect to hear phrases like "Everything's going to be all right," and "Did I fall asleep," many more times before this show is done.
Now, I know what you're thinking. "Dan, I watched this episode. It was more than just a Lost rip-off of revelatory flashbacks. There was bow hunting in this episode. Bow hunting! And you're writing about code phrases?!?"
All right. All right. I'll get to the bow hunting.
Richard O'Connell (Matt Keeslar of Waiting for Guffman and The Middleman) hires Echo for an engagement. Much is made about the price an imprint costs and O'Connell actually has to pay more due to the "additional risk," of his request.
And what could be more risky than extreme mountain sports. You know, white water rafting, mountain climbing, being hunted by the guy you just slept with?
For those claiming the show lacks a certain Whedoness, please tell me you felt it when O'Connell turned on a dime and the show went to commercial with the line "I'll give you a five minute head start. And then I'm coming after you."
It's a good thing Boyd is monitoring near by with a satellite link to the Dollhouse, yes? Just as long as there isn't some psycho working with (not for) O'Connell, out there pretending to be a Park Ranger, all should be good. Oh, there is? Well, then... all is not good.
Boyd tips off the Dollhouse to the snag, incapacitates his assailant and goes out after Echo. You know, Harry Lennix is an actor I was familiar with from two projects; The Matrix sequels and 24's sixth season. It's sad how underutilized he was in those. Here, Joss is giving him something to play with. This episode was designed around the expansion of his character and it definitely worked for me.
Echo stumbles upon the ranger station. Probably not a good thing since we've all ready seen some psycho in the ranger's clothes and truck. After drinking some water, Echo uses a walkie to radio for help. Of course, Dick... I mean, Richard has a walkie of his own. O'Connell's Most Dangerous Game is getting old. He's finally worked Echo up so much that she proclaims she'll be the one to kill him.
If only she wasn't so thirsty. The canteen she drank from was spiked with a drug to not kill her but instead make things spin a bit. Well, that's if you're a normal person. If you're a Doll, you may just end up running into past incarnations of yourself; some real and some imprinted. Echo bumped into Caroline from the video yearbook and even had an acid trip back to the Dollhouse's shower with Alpha's handy work all around her.
Not a minute too late, Boyd finds her. Oh, wait, or maybe that's a minute too early as immediately after finding Echo, Boyd takes one of O'Connell's arrows through the back. Now, no matter what procedure Topher cooked up, it's Boyd who must trust Echo with his life. Boyd gives her his gun and asks if she knows how to use it. Her response? "Four brothers. None of them Democrats."
After nearly two episodes of Dushku playing extremely vulnerable characters, we got to see her in the type of knock-down drag-out fight we all love her for. Fighting for her life, she clutches one of O'Connell's arrows and jams it into the side of his neck.
After returning to the Dollhouse, Echo's mind is wiped yet again. Adele and Laurence look into how something like this could've happened with their extensive background checks. Well, what if the background they were checking wasn't real? Someone went to incredible lengths to hire Echo for this engagement. I know! We can ask the fake ranger. He'll surely be able to provide us with some information. Oh, he's dead? How? Oh, precision cuts again. This is getting serious.
Adelle's right hand man, Laurence, doesn't seem to have much love for the Dollhouse. He's extremely intent on protecting its secrecy but doesn't seem to give a damn about its volunteers or employees. In the final scene, he messes with a wiped Echo. "If it was up to me, I'd put you in the attic. Or the ground." Okay, yes, he threatened to kill her. Is it wrong I'm more intrigued by "The Attic"? Could this be a real place inside the Dollhouse where disturbed Dolls go? Their own institution, perhaps? Now there's a storyline I'd like to see explored.
As Laurence leaves Echo behind we see she's retained a piece of the "Shoulder to the wheel," memory despite having been wiped.
So, certainly more action packed than last week's episode. Did you personally like it more? Do you see more or less potential in the show?
I'll leave you with a snippet of Joss from Matt Mitovich's multi-part Q&A with the man behind Dollhouse...
"I love the show and where we got to at the end of the season has us all buzzing and we can't wait for people to see it. I would hardly say we're done."
Part I: Joss Whedon Takes You Inside His Cool Dollhouse
Part II: Britney, Bunnies, Angelic Reunions: Joss Whedon Answers Questions about the Buffyverse and More
Part III: Joss Spills More Dollhouse Secrets! Plus: Is He Done with TV?